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Interview with Sharon Hirut Hai



Q – Sharon, what is gender?


A – When I address the issue of gender, I examine 3 aspects: what is gender today, what is gender identity, what is gender expression and what is the connection between them.


Gender is a term that refers to social order and social and cultural distinction between men and women, which consists of a set of social expectations addressed to those associated with each of the genders. Gender is not a biological term that refers to a series of anatomical and physiological characteristics.


A person’s gender identity (or gender identity) is first and foremost an understanding of how a person identifies socially and his or her personal life experience (i.e. self-definition) alongside the way society treats that person. Gender identity is a deep, inner and individual experience and therefore every person should be allowed to identify and live with confidence in his or her gender, as he or she perceives it personally.


Gender expression refers to a person’s appearance in society, and to the way in which his or her appearance and behavior are associated with a particular gender. It is about addressing external markers such as dress, length of hair, makeup, etc., along with how certain behaviors are expressed, and the direct link they make between them and the social role that distinguishes them in answering the question of whether they are “masculine” or “feminine.” Many topics are defined in this way, such as interests and even sexual attraction.


It is customary to divide the gender population into men and women. But, there are those who do not fully belong to these definitions. These people will define themselves at different points on a wide range of identities, and will often identify themselves as non-binary.


In my opinion, there is a close connection between these definitions and they directly affect the life of every individual in the population, especially at the level of the social expectations that are directed at him consciously and unconsciously. The main distinction in this context is between gender as a definition that is primarily scientifically objective, and gender as a definition that is primarily socially subjective, and is subject primarily to the self-definition of the individual.


It is important for me to say that there is no direct connection between an individual’s gender identity and his or her sexual attraction or sexual practice. While attractiveness preference pertains to the desire to have a relationship with the other, gender identity is first and foremost a matter of self-definition, and it crosses all areas of life, for all that that implies.


Q – Tell me about your activism


A – Look, by me being trans I am an activist, I am undermining the patriarchal heterosexual perception of space by the very division of gender. It is therefore not inconceivable that sometimes personal events occur to me in which I am compelled to be an activist.


In addition, there is my volunteer activity as a scholarship holder on behalf of the organization “Transitions” to the trans arch. At the beginning of the year (2021) I was annexed  to an organization called “Argaman” whose role is to work for the protect the rights of sex workers in Israel and to combat trends in economic and social processes and measures that seek to infringe on the rights of those workers, provide legal advice, advocacy, adequate representation and assistance.


Through volunteering, I was able to combine academic world with practice, since as part of my studies I acquired academic knowledge that I could translate into practical practice, and so in the past month I have been involved in accompanying and supporting women in the depths of the Israeli bureaucracy.


For example, I accompanied a prostitute survivor, a former sex worker, who was “debtor-limited in means” (status in the ” Law Enforcement and Collection System Authority”) to open a bank account. The bank delayed and acted lazily for a whole week in violation of the Banking Act which prohibits refusing to open a bank account with a credit balance, after the presentation of provision 422, the current account with a credit balance is opened. In another case, I accompanied a trans woman in rehabilitation proceedings and together we filed a complaint with the State Comptroller for breach of administrative obligation on behalf of the Ministry of Social Services in providing assistance funds to women surviving prostitution. Finally, the survivor received NIS 10,000, the amount she is entitled to according to the law.


These days I’m Volunteering at the Trans Israel organization and hope to contribute my knowledge there as well. At the end of the day I try not to get upset, maintain balance and composure, try to understand the facts and start building a strategy. From strategy – to tactics. From baking a corn pie to arriving at the CEO of an office – it all depends on the planning, composure and adaptation.


Q – What strengthens you?


A – The change to gender adjustment, the understanding that every day another small step is reduced towards the change and simply that you live your life in freedom.


Q – What makes you happy?


A – I love to travel the world but because of Covid it is avoided but I try to find other hobbies, I started gardening, in gardening I see a lot of therapeutic benefits for the psyche. Just as the flower or seedling grows, so do humans. I love sports and exercise and generally believe in balance.


Q – How should the Ethiopian and Trans Community improve?


A – I actually want to answer the question of what Israeli society needs to improve because the data is quite clear.


There is a limited space that allows trans people to respond to transphobic behavior. When trans people are exposed to violence in public space its defense against violence serves as a basis for arrest and charges. The situation is the same when an Ethiopian defends himself against violence. In the end he finds himself guilty.


The trans arch like a black identity moves on common axes. The trans life experience and that of an Ethiopian guy is usually on the intersections of additional exclusion axes: civil status, disability, economic status and more. This creates a situation of increased exposure to risk, of meeting with the police and other agents of the criminal system. The points of friction with law enforcement systems translate into harassment by police, regulators and civilians through fines, delays, searches and arrests.


Suspects and detainees on the trans arch receive abusive and invasive treatment. A prominent example of this is the “half-and-half” search practice, according to which a police officer or a prison gaurd searches for the “male” body parts of the suspect or the detainee. From the evidence gathered this procedure has been experienced by many as a serious humiliation that amounts to sexual harassment – and what is between sexual harassment and racist harassment sponsored by profiling due to mere skin color?.


Today the trans community is presented as a weakened community in society and suffers from negative coverage as well as the Ethiopian community. It so “turns out” that people on the trans spectrum as well as people of Ethiopian descent find themselves in friction with police and the criminal enforcement system, often far from those who are not and at the same time “get” hot coverage.


At the same time, I want to tell my friends from these various communities that you can be groundbreaking, create a unique path for you and follow it. This does not mean that you should be the TOKEN 24/7, you are also private individuals and that is how you should be treated as private individuals. Do not give space for external attribution, remember that you will give a hundred times better than the one in front of you and it does not matter if it is on the school bench, or in the workplace. You probably started at an unequal point and here you are at the same point in the present – what does that say about you? That you are the best of the best.


Q – What would you like to say to Ethiopian youth in the country who will read this interview?


A – Good question, I would honestly tell them to emigrate :), and now seriously, be whole with yourself, be honest with yourself, and do not give up on yourself.


Meet Sharon Hirut Hai, she's two years and two months old (since her transformation), Sharon is a Law student, member in KL"A – social association of LGBTQ of Ethiopian descent', she has a scholarship from project Maavarim for the trans community .In her free time Sharon volunteer in a number of organizations among them "Israeli Trans" a foundation that deals with vocational rehabilitation, distribution of grants and loans, advocacy and lobbying activities to promote positive visibility of the trans community in Israel, promote its legal status and rehabilitate women in the prostitution. In the past, Sharon also volunteered for the "Argaman" organization.

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